Article posted by the AccreditedOnlineColleges.com writing team.
There is a lot of information out there â€“ especially on the internet â€“ about what to do if you are a recent graduate from a four-year university. Too much information, probably. A lot of the guides out there will appear to have been written five to ten years ago. A lot of the content out there is shallow and obvious (which isn’t always a bad thing when it comes to gaining employment as I’ve found a prolonged state of unemployment can do strange things to logic). Suffice to say, you can waste a lot of your time just reading about what to do once you’ve graduated.
Then again, reading too much information about post-graduation is probably better than reading no information at all. And it is, in fact, this type of thought (“too much something is probably better than no something at all”) that I believe will get you the most success after you graduate. I’m sure most of you have all heard the mantra that goes something like, “Getting an undergraduate degree no longer guarantees a job.” This should sound stale and fruitless for very precise reasons: It offers no solution and discourages. What’s worse, I believe this saying even discourages some post-graduates from looking for jobs. Half the battle of post-graduate life is getting into the right state of mind, and statements like that do not help. The other half is actually doing something.
The Right Mindset
Being thrust into the “real world” without a job in this economy can get to your head fast. Some of you may be living at home with your parents while others may be squatting in a cramped apartment by the good graces of a close friend or loved one.
Whatever your situation is after graduation, try not to be too upset about it or feel sorry for yourself. There’s nothing less attractive to employers (or anyone for that matter) than a jobless 20-something moping around about how unfair life after college is with a liberal arts major. Of course, it is also extremely difficult to motivate yourself to do anything (much less apply for jobs) when you are constantly thinking about how bad your current situation is. Trust me; it’s not that bad, and it will get a lot better if you make extra efforts to keep your spirits up.
Take (a little) Time Off
Just because you can’t find a job straight out of college doesn’t mean that you didn’t work hard or you don’t deserve a break. For the first couple weeks after you graduate, you should really consider taking a short vacation, perhaps a cheap one. It will be a nice break between your intensive studying at college and you intensive attempts to seek employment.
This could also be a valuable time to ponder over what future career path you want to pursue. Who knows, the idea might come and grab you out of the middle of the nowhere. I recommend keeping a notebook or journal during your time off to help clear your head of your thoughts, desires, aspirations, and worries(but don’t worry too much).
Most importantly, relax and have some fun. Depending on what job you find (or don’t find), this could be your last real vacation for a while. After this, you must be prepared to work harder than you’ve ever worked to get a job. Enjoy this free time now because, afterword, you might as well have a fulltime job.
Look for a Job Like It’s Your Job
Undoubtedly, we’ve all heard this before to the point where it is trite or almost meaningless. Still, it’s extremely important to treat your job search like a job itself. With all the online job classifieds and databases, there should be no limit to your job search. Top that off with the fact that you need to be constantly updating and tweaking your cover letters and resumes (yes, you should probably have multiple resumes depending on where you’re applying), and you have more work than you can handle. Time to work overtime.
How to Go About Your Job Search
I brushed upon some ideas about how to approach your job search (like it’s a job) in the previous section, but now it’s time to get into the gritty details of enforcing this mindset into the practice of searching for jobs. Surprisingly (or perhaps not surprisingly), it’s harder than it looks.
In college, you had all these neat syllabi giving you detailed lesson plans and exam and project schedules. Now that you’re out in the real world, you will immediately experience the rude awakening that all this organization and structure takes work. And it is also necessary to incorporate into your job search.
Determining What Are Your Skills and Which Are Marketable
The first thing you should do is determine what skills you have and whether they apply to any current jobs in the market. Not sure what all your current skills are? Check your resume. Current skills are not on your resume? Update your resume. Once you can safely determine (and market at a moment’s notice) your comprehensive skill set, you are one step closer to finding the right job for you.
This is also a good time to write down your experience, if you don’t already have that figured out in your resume. Remember that jobs and internships that you have in college count as experience. I realize that this seems obvious, but a surprising amount of graduates seem unsure of this fact.
Once you’ve gathered a long list of your potential skills and experience, it’s time to start looking for correlations between job descriptions and your skills and experience. Some of the correlations may pop up right in front of you. For example, if you have plenty of desktop publishing and web design experience, graphic designer and visual designer are both givens. For those of you with a more unusual or disparate set of skills, try using an advanced job search query from a site like Indeed.com, and try different searches with different combinations of your skills or experience in the “With at least one of these words” category.
Tweaking Your Resume and Cover Letter Per Position
After exhausting different combinations of your skill and experience in advanced job search queries, you will now have a good list of job titles and descriptions that you will probably be eligible for. Chances are, these job descriptions will each demand a different set of skills or experience that you possess. While it may seem great to show off your extra skills that aren’t relevant to a certain position, it’s even better to tweak your resume and cover letter to perfectly fit that certain position.
Let’s think of a practical example for this. If you’re applying for a writing position, and you have a good amount of editorial and copyediting experience working for a university publication, you should gloss over the copyediting experience and hone in on re-writing, writing headlines, and pitching story ideas. If you have a marketing internship, try to really highlight all the aspects of that job that involve writing or concept creation. Unless a position is calling for a well-rounded plethora of skills, it is better to appear the master of one trade rather than the jack of many. If there is a time to bring up any unrelated skills or interests, it is during the interview.
By the time you’ve applied for multiple positions, you will have a variety of different resumes and cover letters that cater specifically to each type of position. Remember that your cover letters should have much more variation than your resumes. This is because your cover letter is supposed to specifically address the needs of the company and how you fit those needs. Any superfluous information will just make you appear unfocused and generic.
An important part of your job search should be keeping contacts with friends and alumni from your college experience. This will help you out for a number of reasons:
- You can compare your job search experience to others.
- It can be morale raising.
- You can get ideas on how to improve your job search.
- You can find potential job leads.
Remember that you can network with virtually anyone, even if you only consider them an acquaintance. They might not always be willing to help you out or even respond to a general question, but it’s worth the effort to try to make as many potential career connections as you can. Also, don’t be afraid to use an unorthodox means to network like Facebook (though you would probably want to message people rather than post publically about job finding inquiries).
The Use of Social Media
Now that we’re on the topic of social media, there are some things that you can post that might help your chances of getting a job while there are other things that might destroy them. If you post any controversial content, I would make your profiles private or remove controversial material.
Some of you may be thinking it would be best just to make all your social media private and avoid the risk of your online presence or reputation affecting your job search in an adverse way. This is a safe approach, but if you are trying to get into the habit of publishing your more productive material online (on, say, a blog), it would beneficial that future employers could see your work. Social media facilitates that visibility.
Mastering the Grind
Personally, I find the initial resume and cover letter tweaking aspects of job searching to be most pleasurable. Maybe that makes me weird. What really becomes incredibly boring and monotonous is applying to job after job after job. You will learn to loathe jobs with specialized online forms that timeout and lose all the information you just filled in. And while it’s fun at first to tweak your cover letter, changing minute details of cover letter after cover letter to fit each job description can be extremely nerve-racking, especially if you’re being careful (and you should be careful).
The best method I’ve found to staying on top of your job search is to cycle between looking for job postings and applying for them, all while keeping an air-tight list. This list can be stored online (there are plenty of great online bookmarking services that will help keep your job listings organized and accessible; I prefer Diigo.com) or you can keep a physical list on paper. Since most job listings you’ll find are online, online bookmarking makes more sense for keeping your list. Since I’m a bit crazy, I keep both an online list and a physical list, just to reinforce which jobs I need to apply for.
There are a couple ways to cycle your job search. Among the safest is alternating days between looking for job postings and sending cover letters and resumes. Of course it is also a great idea to simply spend half the day looking for job listings and the other half preparing and sending your application material.
What If You Hit a Dead End?
Despite mastering the grind and tweaking your presence in the job market in every way possible, you still may not experience as much luck as you would hope. The worst thing you can do at this point is become discouraged. It may be a good idea to look for some friends or family members for consolation and encouragement, but I would not post your job-finding woes publically on Facebook or Twitter.
Depending on your living and financial situation, you may need to temporarily lower your standards and settle for a job that you may be overqualified for. I know plenty of recent college graduates who wait tables, and there is definitely no shame in that. Just be sure that you are also working on a long-term career goal while staying afloat with this temporary position. It is always a good idea to be doing something productive and publishing it on the internet. Never underestimate the power of blogs.
You can also consider getting more education through taking community college courses (to gain vital skills to help you land a job) or going to a graduate school. These are both valid options and can definitely pay off. Just be sure you have a clear plan in mind, knowing how taking these classes will put you in a better position in the job market. There’s nothing worse than going through even more school and still being unable to find a suitable job.